Friday, July 31, 2009


Mike Ripley in his amusing column at Shots Magazine was kind enough to mention that in 2008 not one of the "expert readers" of Euro Crime picked the eventual winner the name of which he seemed to have forgotten.;0)

Well this inexpert reader was in the middle of reading that book while the judges were deliberating, and might well have chosen it if given the time. Well that is my story and I am sticking to it. At least my choice got a special mention.

The 2008 International Dagger winner was Lorraine Connection by Dominique Manotti translated from the French by Amanda Hopkinson and Ros Schwartz.

My choice for 2009, not quite ignored by the judges, was Echoes of the Dead by Johan Theorin translated by Marlaine Delargy.

There is a theory being touted that Scandinavian writers are being seduced away from writing proper literature by the financial rewards of crime fiction. I am entirely in agreement with Barbara Fister in her rebuttal of this pomposity.
We are even told that Nordic writers are being sucked into "sub- and semi-literary channels" and actually selling books.
This denigration of crime fiction in comparison with literature will rumble on and on. But it is not as annoying as writers who try to make crime fiction literature, or what they think is literature, by writing very long sentences and using words I have to look up in the OED.


My review of Ariana Franklin's Relics of the Dead was sent to Karen of Euro Crime last night as I wanted to be ready to watch the cricket on TV this morning. I missed the first two balls and wickets of the day but watched the rest of a very sad pre-lunch performance by Australia.

I have started reading A Visible Darkness by Michael Gregorio, the third whodunit to feature Prussian magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis and set in the years following Napoleon's victory at the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt in 1806. My review will appear at Euro Crime.

Michael Gregorio are Michael G. Jacob and Daniela De Gregorio, who have been married over 25 years and live in Spoleto, a charming small town in central Italy, where we coincidentally spent a wonderful holiday a few years ago. An excuse for posting more photographs of Italy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I watched the next Swedish Wallander episode, The Overdose, last night which I had recorded on BBC 4 Monday night.
This is a series which is growing on me despite the dark pitiless plots, and the subtitles which mean you have to concentrate hard.
Last week's episode, The Brothers, was partially a commentary on the social gulf between rich and poor and between indigenous and immigrant populations, this week's involved the exploitation of fourteen year old schoolgirls by some disgusting older males. You could almost imagine that the plot was written by Stieg Larsson, while hoping all the time that Lisbeth Salander would bounce in with a taser gun. A trial and legal process was far too benevolent a fate for these guys.

When Kurt Wallander is very worried about his health, he confides in Ann-Britt Hoglund, who wouldn't, meanwhile his daughter Linda is devastated by the case as it brings back very unpleasant memories of her childhood.
There is also a hint of romance in the air between Kurt and Ann-Britt, but when a very upset Linda snuggles for comfort into Stefan's bed he carries on reading a Donna Leon novel.

I have chosen to highlight these slightly lighter moments because watching The Overdose is a harrowing experience, and it got me extremely angry at the behaviour of the male authority figures.

What acting in this episode did to the psyche of the brilliant actress Johanna Sallstrom, who played Linda Wallander, I would not care to guess.
I will be watching again next week.


More photographs from Glastonbury as I read Relics of the Dead by Ariana Franklin.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The recent deaths of our last Great War veterans Henry Allingham [18 July at 113] and Harry Patch [25 July at 111] have brought an age to a close. Millions went off to war and died or were terribly wounded for what?
Our parents were deeply affected by this conflict, my mother always spoke so lovingly about her big brother who died aged 19 in the last few weeks of the war [27 September 1918] in the final assaults on the Hindenburg Line. My mother in law hardly knew her father who was sunk in a Royal Australian Navy submarine in January 1918. Their lives were never the same after that war.

But reading John W. Wheeler-Bennett's Brest Litovsk, The Forgotten Peace, March 1918 a book written in 1938 when Europe faced another terrible conflict has reminded me of what they were fighting for, or rather against.
This is a book about negotiations between evil power hungry megalomaniacs and while it would be far too simplistic to claim that the governments of the Allies and Associated Powers were at that time fairly benevolent [they proved they weren't at Versailles] but they were benign in comparison with the Prussian militarism of the German High Command.

Ludendorff is furious, the All-Highest [the Kaiser] nervous and ill at ease (must there always be these clashes?) ; Hindenburg is awakened and Kuhlmann puts a direct question to him ;

"Why do you particularly want the territories?"

Rumblingly from that giant torso comes the Marshal's solemn answer:

" I need them for the manoeuvring of my left wing in the next war".

The Treaty of Brest Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918 and by this agreement Russia lost 34% of her population, 32% of her agricultural land, 85% of her beet sugar lands, 54% of her industrial undertakings, and 89% of her coal mines.

The next day the German newspaper Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung stated that the German Government "has worked only for a peace of understanding and conciliation".

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I have started reading Relics of the Dead by Ariana Franklin and my review will be posted on Euro Crime in due course. The story is set in Glastonbury which gives me the opportunity to post some photographs I took in March this year.
I did not climb the Tor, that is for younger and fitter visitors.
There have been two previous books in the Adelia Aguilar series, Mistress of The Art of Death which won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award and The Death Maze.

Review of The Death Maze.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Cora Bender on a summer outing to the Otto Maighler Lido with her husband and young son has decided to kill herself, but suddenly she attacks and repeatedly stabs with a small fruit knife a stranger.
She is pulled off the man and confesses to the murder, and it seems a open and shut case. But as police detective Rudolf Govian interviews her and investigates her tragic past he wonders if there is a connection with the victim hidden behind a protective wall in Cora's troubled mind.
A confused and muddled Cora tells him various lies, half truths and half remembered details of her life. Cora has had a dreadfully deprived childhood in a house where her mother's insane religious fanaticism is contrasted with her father's overwhelming sexual frustration and his understandable guilt over his actions during the war in Poland.
The family's life has been sacrificed to an unhealthy commitment to her beautiful but invalid sister, Magdalena, with devastating consequences.
Petra Hammesfahr takes the reader on a harrowing journey into Cora's very disturbed mind which leaves you temporarily exhausted but ultimately satisfied.

This must have been a difficult book to translate and John Brownjohn has done a fine job in bringing Petra Hammesfahr's novel to an English readership. Author Petra Hammesfahr has written over twenty crime novels, and has won several prizes in Germany, including the Rhineland Literary Prize.

The Sinner delves deeply into the psychological quagmire that is Cora's angst ridden psyche. It is not a comfortable read, because of the subject matter, but it is a gripping story that covers adult subjects in a straightforward almost clinical fashion. The narrative makes the reader feel all the pent up emotion and frustration of the main characters and leaves you drained at the end.
Any family with more than one child is faced with the problem of balancing time between siblings, those families with an invalid or special needs child face a much more difficult time. In Cora and Magdalena's family the failure to balance their needs in such an extreme manner has caused deep psychological wounds.

The Sinner is simply a brilliant novel about human emotions, desires and how the mind is so vulnerable to trauma both physical and mental.

It is a powerful well written book that is a compulsive reading experience, but probably not if you are feeling a little bit depressed before you start.
The very best crime fiction is all about characters, plot and making you think about life, and The Sinner is a very good psychological thriller that fits those criteria.

I have commented elsewhere that I could not understand how that out of twenty three books nominated in the last four years for the CWA International Dagger only one book was originally written in German.
If the general standard of German crime fiction is anywhere near the quality of The Sinner that state of affairs is even more bizarre.

It was suggested that I might seek some light relief before starting my next crime fiction book tonight. Therefore today I will read some chapters from Brest Litovsk, The Forgotten Peace, March 1918, written by John Wheeler-Bennett in 1938.
The Russian Revolution, Lenin, Trotsky, Hindenburg, Ludendorff and Hoffman will indeed be light relief after the angst ridden emotion of The Sinner.


Thanks to the lovely Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise for the I Keep Coming Back For More Award.

It always always pleasant to win an award and doubly so when it comes from someone who is so knowledgeable. Thanks Kerrie.

Friday, July 24, 2009


This morning the postman brought me a package of four books sent by the kindly Karen of Euro Crime. A further parcel included one book came sent direct from the publisher Transworld. Many thanks Karen.

I took a photograph of the tottering pile of books on my current TBR pile, those I really want to read in the next few weeks!
When does a hobby, a recreation, a pastime, or a diversion turn into an obsession or a disease?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


On a typical Devon July day, with the rain pouring down outside, I watched a recording of the fourth Swedish Wallander [series one] episode to be shown on British television. For a reason that mystifies me, and I am frequently mystified by the BBC, we were shown episodes one and six previously, these were then repeated and now they have gone on with episodes two and three in the correct order.

The BBC version of Wallander with Kenneth Branagh was a pleasant viewing experience but did not really grab my interest. It was a long time since I had read the Henning Mankell books and Kenneth Branagh was not the Kurt Wallander I had in my head and I found it difficult to identify with him. The BBC production seemed to be all about beautiful settings and the brilliant acting of Kenneth Branagh and just seemed too glossy for me.

The four Swedish Wallander episodes I have watched have been of variable quality, although all are based on plot outlines written by Henning Mankell and scripted by others.
Episode Three, The Brothers, was in my opinion the best so far with excellent acting demonstrating the relationships both personal and professional between the Ystad police team.
This episode features some horrific murders, but also a little low key Scandinavian humour from Kurt in his relationships with his boss Lisa Holgersson, and his colleague Ann-Britt Hoglund. I may be in a minority but I find Krister Henriksson to be more very much like the Wallander I imagined from the books.
The smouldering sexual attraction between Linda Wallander and Stefan Lindman catches fire and their subsequent strained relationship is covered with some insight. These characters play a much bigger part in this series than in the BBC production, and are well acted by Johanna Sallstrom and Ola Rapace.

Ola Rapace is the husband of Noomi Rapace who plays the part of Lisbeth Salander in the Stieg Larsson Millennium film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

It is a bittersweet and sad experience watching this series, and knowing that the brilliant young actress Johanna Sallstrom took her own life in 2007. She was a shining star in Mankell's Wallander and the series is well worth watching.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


The Information Officer, after a brief prologue, is set in Malta 1942 at the height of the bombing raids by the Axis air forces. The eponymous hero of the novel Max Chadwick has the job of ensuring that the Maltese receive news that keeps up their morale.
When he discovers that local girls are being murdered by a serial killer who is probably a British officer he begins an investigation that is hampered by both the bombing, and his superiors. A submariner's shoulder flash found at the scene of one of the murders complicates the investigation as Max has had an affair with Mitzi Campion.

All roads led to the Upstanding, the submarine driven by Lionel 'Campers' Campion, lieutenant-commander and cuckold.

Max seeks help in his investigation from local connections of his Maltese girl friend Lilian, because he suspects several of his fellow British officers and also the enigmatic mysterious American liaison officer Elliott. At times the reader will even suspect Max.

I had a number of distractions while I was reading Mark Mills third novel. Some were pleasant a visit from daughter and granddaughter, and cricket watching some not so pleasant, but despite all this I really enjoyed the novel.
The author succeeded in capturing the atmosphere of tension of a people living under the threat of bombing, and the public school bonhomie among the British officers.
A subplot follows the childhood of the unnamed murderer and his descent to become a serial killer. We learn about the history of the island, the bravery of the Maltese people, and are given a full ration of war, crime mystery and a love interest as well. Max has a complicated love life:

...his thoughts turned to Max-handsome, hopeless Max, torn between two such different women.
Was he even aware of the scale of the cliche? It was a corny conundrum straight from the pages of Ivanhoe or Daniel Deronda: the young man whose heart is divided between the blonde embodiment of his own kind a a creature altogether more dark and exotic.
Sir Walter Scott and George Eliot had both chosen to throw a Jewess in the path of their hero. Max, it seemed, had fallen hard for a Maltese of mixed ancestry.

Mark Mills by putting these thoughts in the mind of his villain follows the tradition of John Buchan, and in the process creates a realistic period feel for his characters.
I found myself racing through to the end to uncover this murderer and although this novel was not in the very top class of historical crime fiction, because it tried to cover too much territory, I enjoyed it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Here are the July Miniquiz answers.

1] What is the connection between Septimus Winner and Prudence Cowley?

It is Agatha Christie:

Septimus Winner in 1864 wrote the song Ten Little Indians which was one title of the Christie novel that eventually became And Then There Were One.

Prudence Cowley was the maiden name of Tuppence Beresford. Agatha Christie wrote four novels and sixteen short stories featuring Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Tuppence was played in a brilliantly cast 1983 television series by the fragrant Francesca Annis.

2] The boy has a talent for going underground or even underwater, but follows the game. Five hidden books.

They were the series of books by Patricia Highsmith featuring Tom Ripley.

The Talented Mr Ripley 1955
Ripley Underground 1970
Ripley's Game 1974
The Boy who Followed Ripley 1980
Ripley Underwater 1991

Thanks to all those who entered and especially for the correct or very nearly correct answers that came from Belize, Denmark, Scotland [Edinburgh] and Virginia.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Yesterday after a trip across a very wet Dartmoor I took my younger son to see Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince at our excellent local cinema, the Picture House. It wasn't too crowded at an early afternoon showing and the audience was almost entirely adult.
I think it was the best of the Harry Potter films that I have seen and really enjoyable even for someone who has not read the books.

The only upsetting moment was that when Hermione Granger announced that her muggle parents were dentists, the subsequent hushed silence on the screen was matched by a sharp intake of breath by the cinema audience.

In between reading crime fiction I am enjoying a wonderful book by Pelham Warner [England's captain] about the victorious 1911-1912 cricket tour to Australia, when England won back the Ashes 4-1. [see photo above]
I thought that by reading about one of England's greatest ever teams it might improve the form of the present lot. And so far it is working!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I was somewhat surprised that The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas won the 2009 CWA International Dagger.
The French writer's third win in four years and a French author's fourth straight win; Dominique Manotti won last year with Lorraine Connection.

I reviewed The Chalk Circle Man here and here, and despite my misgivings about this book chose a Fred Vargas book as one of my five best reads of 2008.
I am definitely a Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg fan, but nevertheless I was stunned, as in my humble opinion and more importantly that of several far more literate and erudite bloggers than I, this Vargas was not as good as several of the Nordic contenders.
I would expect that the judge's deliberations were confidential, but I would be interested to know their reasons from anyone else who thought this Vargas was better than the other nominated books.

I note that people from the blogosphere were invited to the awards ceremony at a cost of £45 per ticket. This was to include the announcement of the shortlists for the Gold Dagger, the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and the John Creasy [New Blood] award for first novels, unfortunately this was postponed till October and if I had paid my £45 I would have been slightly miffed.
Click here and scroll down for all my posts on Fred Vargas, and for a discussion of the contenders click here and here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


A gentle reminder that you have only one more day to enter the July Mini Quiz, and also that tonight the British CWA announce the winner of the International Dagger discussed here and here.
They will also be announcing the short list for the Gold Dagger, the big prize, and other awards.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Studying those Mock covers brought home to me what wonderfully vivid characters have come onto the crime fiction scene in the last few years. I have always thought that characters are far more important than plots in providing a great reading experience. But it is important that those characters are a good fit in their period and their location. Philip Kerr's seemingly out of place 'Marlowe like' creation Bernie Gunther works well in the Nazi Germany setting simply because the Nazis were a group of gangsters, who instead of running a scam in LA were incredibly running a country.
Larry Beinhart in his book How to Write a Mystery talks about creating characters to suit a theme, or the subject matter, as an alternative to using a real person and modeling your character on them. Of course an example of the later is Arthur Conan Doyle using his medical school professor Joseph Bell for his Sherlock Holmes and adding a few quirks such as his addiction to morphine.

We are very lucky that two very original characters who fit their period and their theme so perfectly, Lisbeth Salander and Eberhard Mock, have been created, quirks and all, for us to enjoy. [scroll down after clicking on those links for all my previous posts about these characters]

They are not in the least like Raymond Chandler's image of his detective described in the essay, The Simple Art of Murder; "He must be the best man in his world, and a good enough man for any world".
Or "He must be, to use a weathered phrase be, a man of honor-......".

These new heroes or anti heroes could not be more different.

Lisbeth Salander, a child like vulnerable, bisexual, tattooed, pierced, motor bike riding computer hacker who will use extreme violence if she feels justified. She is certainly justified with some of the people she meets in the books. I hope we get more Salander and less Blomqvist in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest.

Eberhard Mock, an alcoholic depressive brutal wife-beating policeman who is interested in the classics, astrology, chess and prostitutes, and who administers harsh justice without recourse to the legal system. I am looking forward to more in this series with its back stories and slightly rambling eccentric plots.

The two characters are a perfect fit to operate within their respective societies, societies damaged by abuse, the destruction of the family, lack of respect for authority, war and a subsequent breakdown in moral codes.

Salander's world may not be exactly the same as Mock's harsh post war Weimar and then Nazi Germany, but to her an abused person treated with contempt by society it must seem pretty close. Although Mock is in harmony with his decadent world, and Salander is the typical outsider they both have the skills to survive in a harsh environment.

Authors Stieg Larsson and Marek Krajewski, along with translators Reg Keeland and Danusia Stok have done a superb job in bringing us these characters.

I think both characters are fantastic and along with Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg, Salvo Montalbano and Harry Hole show we are definitely in a golden age for translated crime fiction.

Who are your favourite characters, and are they a good fit for their worlds?

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Polish graphic artist Andrzej Klimowski created the book covers for the UK Quercus MacLehose editions of Marek Krajewski's Eberhard Mock series?
They are very evocative of the decadence and liberal values associated with Weimar Germany, but interestingly the Polish covers are very conservative in comparison.
Do you think the UK covers might put off certain readers?
Which do you prefer?


We were in Lewes, Sussex on 4 July, and I had forgotten that it is one of the cradles of the American Revolution.
The Thomas Paine festival runs until 14 July when the locals will presumably also celebrate the storming of the Bastille.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


I have to say that it seemed bizarre to have bought The Kings Depart, a book that tells the story of Germany between the Armistice in November 1918 and the signing of the Versailles Treaty in June 1919, from a bookshop in a typical idyllic "Miss Marple" English village.
There is an article by Nathaniel Rich here that tells how Scandinavians "the most peaceful people in the world" write great crime fiction, so maybe it was the peaceful atmosphere and the beauty of Alfriston Clergy House that made me buy this tale of terrible failure.
We have seen in recent years that wars don't end smoothly or when the victor declares "mission accomplished" and this was true of the Great War.

Within weeks of the departure of the Freikorps, Munich swarmed with spies and informers. The Bavarian Army was then in the process of reconstitution into brigades of the German Reichswehr. Bavaria became District VII of the Provisional Reichswehr.
Its commander was General Franz Ritter von Epp.
[The Kings Depart: Richard M.Watt]

On his staff were two officers named Rudolph Hess and Ernst Rohm.

At least now every time I dip into this book I will have an image of beauty of Alfriston in my mind to counteract the bleak story.

Friday, July 10, 2009


On our way to stay in Lewes last Saturday we took a diversion and went to the idyllic Sussex village of Alfriston. The purpose of our visit was to see the Clergy House, the first ever National Trust property but we happened to spot a superb bookshop, Much Ado Books, in the village.
We had lunched very well in a local restaurant, Moonrakers, and were in a relaxed mood with the result that Mrs Crime Scraps arrived at the payment point with a huge pile of books. I, of course, was more circumspect and resisted any purchases until I spotted a favourite book I had previously lost somewhere in our various moves.
My original copy of The King's Depart: The Tragedy of Germany:Versailles and the German Revolution by Richard M. Watt was a paperback and had almost disintegrated therefore I was very grateful to find and buy a hardback copy for only £5.00. This book is a treasure trove of information and quotations about once of the decisive periods in world history, a time of missed opportunities.

The very pleasant and friendly bookshop owners, Cate Olson and Nash Robbins, told us they were from Boston, plied us with lavender shortbread, and gave us a neat hessian bag to carry away our purchases. Great service.
Their website can be visited here.


While we were away last weekend I read Michael Connelly's blockbuster The Brass Verdict.

Mickey Haller is recovering from the events in The Lincoln Lawyer and his addiction to alcohol and 'hillbilly heroin' when an old legal adversary Jerry Vincent is murdered leaving his entire practice to Mickey.
The law firm of Michael Haller and Associates is back in business, and Mickey has an important client, Walter Elliott, chairman of Archway Pictures. Elliott a big player in Hollywood is accused of the double murder of his wife Mitzi and her lover after discovering them in a Malibu beach house.
Did Elliott kill his wife? Who murdered Jerry Vincent and why?

While Mickey's ex wife Lorna organizes the law practice, her new boyfriend the investigator Dennis Wojciechowski aka Cisco tackles the investigation of the murders, and Mickey prepares to go into court for the first time in more than a year to defend Walter Elliott. The police detective looking into the Jerry Vincent murder is none other than Detective Hieronymus 'Harry" Bosch, and Mickey and Harry have to cooperate in order for Mickey to stay alive.

There are also sub plots concerning Mickey's relationship with his daughter Hayley and her mother Maggie, and the possibility of him relapsing into addiction under the stress of the trial.

The basic plot of this novel is very simple and the fact that Michael Connelly stretches it out with so many twists and turns to 567 pages without it seeming that long is a tribute to his talent and the clarity of his writing. He takes the reader through the minutiae of running a criminal defence law practice in Los Angeles, and the preparation and conduct of a trial and I was engrossed. Much of the information was fairly basic stuff to anyone who watches television programs such as Law and Order, but the first person account by Mickey is so clear and direct that you are hooked and involved with him in each stage as he proceeds.
Of course all the faults of the American system of justice are set out, including the problem of poorly paid state expert witnesses opposed by the defence's $10,000 plus expenses star quality experts.

The Brass Verdict was a very well constructed not too complicated legal thriller and it was an excellent holiday read.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


New York 1960: Eberhard Mock is dying from lung cancer but before receiving the last rites and the sacrament of confession he wishes to speak with his old colleague Herbert Anwaldt.

As Mock tells his story the reader is taken back to Breslau in November 1927 at probably the apogee of the Weimar Republic.
Counsellor Eberhard Mock's life is full of problems.
His nephew Erwin wishes to become a poet and his father Franz, a railway engineer, comments "Poets are all queers, or dirty Jews."
Eberhard Mock fails to support Erwin in the family argument and is criticised by his wife Sophie, "when we're here you put a railwayman above a poet?"
Eberhard takes on some of the family responsibility and designates an unfavoured subordinate to watch over his nephew.

Mock's strained relationship with his beautiful young wife Sophie has become increasingly brutal and she has entered into a curious association with her friend Elisabeth Pfugler and the very rich Baron von Hagenstahl. Another of Mock's subordinates is assigned to watch Sophie.

On top of these personal problems he has a mystery to solve and an investigation to conduct; two men have been sadistically murdered, one sealed up behind a wall and one butchered into quarters, each with next to them a calendar page with the date of their death.
Meanwhile in Breslau with the high society decadence of the wealthy few contrasting starkly with the abject poverty of the many, a strange cult preaches the apocalypse and the imminent end of the world.
Mock must deal with his own depression, the demands of his scheming superior Criminal Director Heinrich Muhlhaus, his own violent nature, and track down through the bars, brothels, casinos, and dark recesses of the city, the perpetrator of the calendar killings.

Marek Krajewski was until recently a lecturer in Classical Studies in the University of Wroclau. The Eberhard Mock novels of which there are now five have enjoyed great success in Poland and Germany and are being translated into many other languages. The English version is translated by Danusia Stok, a distinguished translator of modern Polish literature.

Marek Krajewski's style takes a little bit getting used to but it is worth the effort, and although he does scatter a very few Latin quotations around they add to the noirish atmosphere of a story set in an ancient university city that was German Breslau for 700 years, before becoming Polish Wroclau after the Second World War.

"True to the maxim primum edere deinde philosophari, [eat first then philosophize] he thought neither of Sophie nor of the investigation, and got to work on the dumplings drenched in sauce and the thick slices of roast meat."

Marek Krajewski's plotting is complex as we follow the various strands which diverge off in different directions and then eventually come together at the end.
But as with many of the best crime fiction novels even this very good plot is secondary and only a method of introducing the wonderfully bizarre characters.
The seedy atmosphere of Breslau in the 1920s superbly portrayed, but the deeply flawed character of the anti-hero Eberhard Mock is by far the best thing about this series.
He is indeed the perfect fit of investigator for a decadent violent society that was about to destroy itself in the next few years.

This is one of the best books I have read this year, another fine example of the growing sub genre of Weimar Noir; it is surely a contender for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award.
I am really looking forward to reading more and more about this new and very different detective.

You can read my interview with Marek Krajewski here and here, and my review of the first book in the series Death in Breslau here.

Read another review of The End of The World in Breslau here.

"Ebi, the attendant has made a mistake. He's given you somebody else's fur. I didn't have a stole."
"It is your fur", Mock said with the expression of a schoolboy who has just tipped drawing-pins onto the chair of a teacher he dislikes."And your stole."
"Thank you, my love." Sophie held out her hand to be kissed.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


We have just come back from a four night mini break which included attending my aunt's 90th birthday lunch in Bromley, Kent.
More on this trip in the next few days along with two reviews.

There has been so much on-line activity over the last few days it will take me a while to catch up.

But in case anyone has missed me here are the July mini quiz [number 6] questions.

1] What is the connection between Septimus Winner and Prudence Cowley?

2] "The boy has a talent for going underground or even underwater, but follows the game."
Five hidden books.

Please send answers to thbear08@google by Thursday 16 July midnight BST.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Mike Ripley is always interesting in his Getting Away with Murder column at Shots Magazine.
He comments with reference to the International Dagger short list that it "reflects the love affair between Nordic crime and the chattering classes with five out of the six books being from authors of Scandinavian origin."
I have no argument with the quality of the six nominees but looking back it does seem that there is a danger that the International Dagger is becoming a cosy club with the same authors being nominated regularly to the exclusion of others.

I find the criteria for the various CWA daggers confusing with rules that they have to have been published in English between certain dates and nominated by a UK publisher. The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for instance states in the preamble that the broadest definition of the thriller is used and they can be set in any period and include but are not limited to spy and or action/adventure books.
Could an historical thriller be also considered for both the Ian Fleming and the Ellis Peters? Yes, according to these criteria.

The limitation that the books must have a UK publisher means that an excellent book such as A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell which would be a certain nominee for the Ellis Peters Award may be ineligible.

At the moment I am in the middle of another brilliant historical crime fiction novel End Of The World In Breslau by Marek Krajewski, an author who I interviewed last year here and here.
You can read my review of the first book in his Eberhard Mock series Death in Breslau here.
Here is Fiona Walker's Euro Crime review of the End of The World in Breslau.

I will discuss Marek Krajewski's book next week.

But returning to the subject of the International Dagger here is a list of some of the authors who have NOT been nominated during the four years the dagger has been awarded.

Boris Akunin, Niccolo Ammaniti, Philippe Claudel, Karin Fossum, Mari Jungstedt, Henning Mankell, Natsuo Kirino, Andrea Maria Schenkel, Carlo Lucarelli, Leonardo Padura, Deon Meyer, Yrsa Sigurdadottir, Hans Werner Kettenbach, Camilla Lackberg, Helene Tursten, Liza Marklund, Inger Frimansson and Marek Krajewski.

A formidable list.